2011 Bracketology: Duke Returns To No. 1 Seed, Thanks To BYU's Issues

DURHAM NC - FEBRUARY 23: Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates after a dunk on their way to a 78-61 victory over the Temple Owls at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 23 2011 in Durham North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

With the conclusion of NCAA basketball's regular season upon us, it's time to ignore the NCAA Tournament bubble for a moment and take a fresh look at the March Madness bracket projections heading into the weekend. Overall, things aren't too terribly different than they were in Tuesday's edition of Bracketology, but there are two significant differences.

The first is that BYU drops down to the two line after Brandon Daviessuspension and the Cougars' subsequent home loss to New Mexico on Wednesday night. Duke replaces the Mountain West leaders as a number one seed.

St. John's falls to the five line after Thursday's loss at Seton Hall, with Connecticut replacing them.

The second major change to this bracket its appearance. You'll no longer have to click a link to see how the field of 68. For the rest of the season, I'll be incorporating the bracket directly into the post as a table.

First a look at how the regions pair up for the Final Four and the eight teams invited to the First Four in Dayton.

National Semifinal Matchups

(1) East vs. (4) West
(2) Southwest vs. (3) Southeast

First Four

Automatic Bid Teams
March 15: Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) vs. McNeese State (Southland) to Washington on March 17th
March 16: Northern Colorado (Big Sky) vs. Texas Southern (SWAC) to Cleveland on March 18th

At-Large Teams
March 15: Clemson (NEW) vs. Richmond to Denver on March 17th
March 16: Butler (11) vs. Michigan to Charlotte on March 18th

The Last Four In and First Four Out are the same as in Thursday morning's Bubble Watch, but with a twist. Taking a cue from comments made by Selection Committee chair and Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith made on CBS last weekend about potential shifts among the teams slated for the "First Four," I moved Butler, who is NOT among the "Last Four In," to the Opening Round. That's because two ACC teams, Boston College (who I moved up) and Clemson, were both in line to play in Dayton. However, Charlotte is the only Friday site in this projection that hosts a four seed, and that team is North Carolina, who the Eagles and Tigers both lost to twice this year.

Based on the precedent of two potential all-Big East regional semifinals in last year's bracket (which didn't pan out because of early losses by Marquette, Notre Dame, and Villanova), the committee tries to pair teams who met only once during league play if they need to break the "conference teams may not meet until the regional finals" rule. I'd think they'd do the same if the potential exists for two conference teams to meet in what used to be the Second Round.

With that bit of procedural minutiae out of the way, here's the bracket heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

EAST
Newark (March 25 and 27)
SOUTHWEST
San Antonio (March 25 and 27)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
1. Ohio State (Big Ten)
16. Northern Colorado/Texas Southern
1. Kansas (Big 12)
16. Murray State (Ohio Valley)
8. Washington (10)
9. Old Dominion
8. UNLV (9)
9. UCLA (7)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
5. Vanderbilt
12. Missouri State (MVC)
5. St. John's (4)
12. Butler/Michigan
4. Connecticut (4)
13. Oakland (Summit)
4. North Carolina
13. Princeton
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
6. Villanova
11. St. Mary's (West Coast)
6. Temple
11. Boston College (NEW)
3. Texas
14. Long Beach State (Big West)
3. Louisville
14. Kent State (Mid-American)
Chicago (Fri/Sun)
Chicago (Fri/Sun)
7. Florida State
10. Illinois (9)
7. George Mason (Colonial)
10. Marquette (9)
2. Notre Dame
15. Coastal Carolina (Big South)
2. Purdue
15. Vermont (America East)
WEST
(Anaheim: March 24 and 26)
SOUTHEAST
(New Orleans: March 24 and 26)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
Washington (Thu/Sat)
1. Duke (ACC) (2)
16. Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt)
1. Pittsburgh (Big East)
16. Bethune-Cookman/McNeese State
8. Missouri
9. Utah State (WAC) (8)
8. Texas A&M (7)
9. Tennessee (10)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
5. Kentucky
12. Clemson/Richmond
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10)
12. UAB (Conference USA)
4. Georgetown
13. Milwaukee (Horizon)
4. Wisconsin
13. Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
Washington (Thu/Sat)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
6. Arizona
11. Michigan State
6. West Virginia
11. Virginia Tech (10)
3. Syracuse
14. Bucknell (Patriot)
3. Florida (SEC)
14. College of Charleston (Southern)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
7. Kansas State (8)
10. Georgia (11)
7. Cincinnati (8)
10. Gonzaga
2. San Diego State
15. Fairfield (Metro Atlantic)
2. BYU (Mountain West) (1)
15. Long Island (Northeast)


Conference Breakdown

Big East: 11
ACC, Big Ten: 6
Big 12, SEC: 5
A-10, MWC, Pac-10: 3
CAA, Horizon, WCC: 2
20 one-bid conferences

Among the first eight out, expect even more movement over the weekend, and for at least one of them to make an appearance in my Monday update.

First Four Out
69. Alabama
70. Colorado State
71. Colorado
72. Oklahoma State
Next Four Out
76. Washington State
75. Penn State
74. VCU
73. Baylor

 

As this is the final weekend of the regular season, there will be plenty of games on the TV schedule that will impact the bubble, seeding, and the conference races. One notable exception is the final Big 12 regular season game for Colorado and Nebraska, which will be played in Boulder without TV coverage. How 1980s/Big 8 era of them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011
Kansas at Missouri, CBS (12 p.m. ET)
Louisville at West Virginia, ESPN (12 p.m. ET)
Virginia Tech at Clemson, ESPN2 (12 p.m. ET)
Duquesne at Richmond, CBS College Sports (12 p.m. ET)
Indiana at Illinois, Big Ten Network (12 p.m. ET)
Iowa State at Kansas State, Big 12 Network Regional/ESPN3/Full Court (1:30 p.m. ET)
Texas Tech at Texas A&M, Big 12 Network Regional/ESPN3/Full Court (1:30 p.m. ET)
Georgia at Alabama, SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court (1:30 p.m. ET)
Michigan State at Michigan, CBS Regional (2 p.m. ET)
Oregon at Arizona, CBS Regional (2 p.m. ET)
Notre Dame at Connecticut, ESPN (2 p.m. ET)
Xavier at Saint Louis, CBS College Sports (2 p.m. ET)
Georgetown at Cincinnati, Big East Network/ESPN3/Full Court (2 p.m. ET)
Wyoming at BYU, The Mtn. (3:30 p.m. ET)
Villanova at Pittsburgh, CBS (4 p.m. ET)
Purdue at Iowa, ESPN (4 p.m. ET)
UNLV at Utah, Versus (4 p.m. ET)
Tulane at Memphis, CBS College Sports (4 p.m. ET)
DePaul at Syracuse, Big East Network/ESPN3/Full Court (4 p.m. ET)
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court (4 p.m. ET)
UCLA at Washington State, FSN/Comcast SportsNet (4 p.m. ET)
Florida at Vanderbilt, ESPN (6 p.m. ET)
Air Force at New Mexico, The Mtn. (6 p.m. ET)
Marquette at Seton Hall, Big East Network/ESPN3/Full Court (6 p.m. ET)
Utah State at Louisiana Tech, ESPN Plus/ESPN3/Full Court (7 p.m. ET)
USF at St. John's, Big East Network/ESPN3/Full Court (8 p.m. ET)
Duke at North Carolina, CBS (8 p.m. ET)
Texas at Baylor, ESPN (9 p.m. ET)
Colorado State at San Diego State, The Mtn. (10 p.m. ET)
USC at Washington, FSN/Comcast SportsNet (10:30 p.m. ET)

Sunday, March 6, 2011
Kentucky at Tennessee, CBS (12 p.m. ET)
Wake Forest at Boston College, ACC Network or ESPN3/Full Court (12 p.m. ET)
Penn State at Minnesota, Big Ten Network (1 p.m. ET)
Wisconsin at Ohio State, CBS (4 p.m. ET)
Florida State at N.C. State, FSN/Comcast SportsNet (6:15 p.m. ET)

This weekend sees the first actual bids handed out, as five teams will qualify by winning their respective conference titles. However, these games just scratch the surface of the elimination action airing over the next two days.  Head over at Blogging the Bracket for broadcast info and schedules for the tournament games set for this weekend.

Saturday, March 5, 2011
Big South Championship, ESPN2 (4 p.m. ET)
Atlantic Sun Championship, ESPN2 (6 p.m. ET)
Princeton at Harvard for the Ivy League Championship, ESPN3 only (7 p.m. ET)
Ohio Valley Championship, ESPN2 (8 p.m. ET)

Sunday, March 6, 2011
Missouri Valley Championship, CBS (2 p.m. ET)

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